After connecting with the shy Madeline, a jazz trumpeter embarks on a quest for a more gregarious paramour, but through a series of twists and turns punctuated by an original score, the two ... Read allAfter connecting with the shy Madeline, a jazz trumpeter embarks on a quest for a more gregarious paramour, but through a series of twists and turns punctuated by an original score, the two lovers seem destined to be together.After connecting with the shy Madeline, a jazz trumpeter embarks on a quest for a more gregarious paramour, but through a series of twists and turns punctuated by an original score, the two lovers seem destined to be together.
I have to wonder if he was surprised by that since, frankly, this movie is a mess. However this is also the kind of mess that is filled with passion, and a few truly wonderful scenes, so it's hard to really evaluate it unless not even so much if I put on my critics hat but if I put on my film professor hat; writing a review of this is akin to writing down marks on a paper and submitting a letter grade (in this case it would be near a B- or C+).
The movie doesn't lack heart and a somewhat unique way of taking a genre film, for Chazelle the musical in his first three outings is all (I feel like there's sort of a career trajectory with Tarantino, whether unintentional or not, and one can see this in a more forgiving light as like Chazelle's My Best Friend's Birthday - clearly enough elements here will work there way into La La Land as that film had parts that would be retrofitted for True Romance).
This is shot in 16mm at a time when digital movie-making is at least seemingly much simpler. He goes back into the realm of super-duper cinema verite, as he operates the camera himself and so much of the film feels improvised that I'm nearly surprised there's a script credit. Moments just happen here, like when Madeline (or is it the other woman, Elena) gets asked by a stranger to buy some flowers, or another stranger, some old cop, keeps pestering here like a borderline (or just) cat-caller and she comes up to his place for no reason AT ALL.
There is barely a story here. We don't know why Guy and Madeline are together, and often they're seen apart in this story. As with everything else here, things just happen without much concern for any development or character arcs or things that go into the *story* of the film. We do see them sort of argue at one point - she is woken up early one morning as he's practicing, he asks her to hear something he's written, she's walked out of the room back into bed, he annoys her with playing right up to her ear, and... why is this happening? What did they do to grow apart?
It's basically like in Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench Chazelle got so much right, or at least was daring in experimenting in a blend of Cassavetes-Shadows-era improvisational filmmaking with his un-abiding love of musicals (credit must also be due to Justin Hurwitz as composer and lyricist, damn is he good), that he either forgot or intentionally neglected the things that keep us (or at least could keep me) engaged past the various shots of characters walking around a city or playing alone in a room or at a party, like giving us likable people or anything that relates back to a start and end for these people. Compared to this, Shadows is chock-full of incident.
So it it does fail or at least falter when it comes to basic storytelling and giving us interesting characters, I do appreciate and love when it breaks out into its musical numbers; if this had been a short film with Madeline singing "Boy in the Park" and doing a dance number, I would say it's great, and you can check that one section on Youtube currently and see what I mean. This is overall so tedious and at the same time fascinating, and, again, I almost feel bad giving it the rating and review I am. Artists like Chazelle need to be encouraged when they're starting out, and clearly the festival run and (small) release by Film Movement did just that. So as a start to what now seems to be one of the strongest careers for a young filmmaker in this industry, more power to him. But there IS a reason we don't return to watch most student films, you know?
- Jan 12, 2017